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For the first 20 to 30 years of our lives, most of us have very little. Our net worth, if we’re lucky enough to be in the black, is measured with 3 to 5 figures.

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For the next 10 to 30 years or more, we hit 6 and hopefully 7 figures as we work on getting to the point of having Enough. Enough to sustain our spending indefinitely and retire when we’re good and ready.

What comes after that?

Once you have enough to retire (calculate what you need to retire), you start to think about other uses for money. Dr. Jim Dahle, who has surpassed the point of financial independence, has pondered this question quite a bit. This post was originally published on The White Coat Investor.

 

6 Tips For Those Who Have Enough

 

How much money is “Enough” is a critical concept when it comes to reaching financial independence. The concept of enough is that once you have reached a certain level of wealth (or truly passive income, as they’re essentially interchangeable), having more wealth doesn’t actually lead to any increased happiness. In fact, in many situations, more leads to decreased happiness.

Mo’ money, mo’ problems.

  • More to worry about losing.
  • More to protect from lawsuits.
  • More to worry about paying taxes on.
  • More estate planning tasks to do.

 

There is no specific dollar amount that represents enough for everyone. For some, it could be a low six-figure amount, while for many it will be a seven-figure amount. It might even be an eight-figure amount for a few. [If this is the first time you’ve heard of this concept and you have no idea how much money might be “Enough” for you, multiply what you spent last year by 25 and that’ll get you into the right neighborhood.]

 

The “Crisis” of Early Financial Independence

 

Katie and I have been fortunate to have reached “Enough” relatively early in life. This has all been very exciting, of course, to watch our income and wealth grow, but it is also at times terrifying.

In some ways, it has provoked an existential crisis as we try to figure out what to do with the rest of our lives now that we are freed from the need to exchange our time and life energy for money. If, as Jonathan Clements has stated, acquiring a nest egg sufficient to support you the rest of your life is your most important financial goal, what comes next?

We fully recognize that this is a dilemma that many of our readers, as fortunate as their financial situations may be, do not currently face. Some do, of course, but only a small percentage. No matter your station, there will always be somebody with more wealth and income than you and somebody with less.

However, it is a dilemma that we hope and fully expect each of our readers will face eventually, so we thought it was worth addressing. Even if you are nowhere near financial independence, or even are still struggling with paying off the credit cards, hopefully, there is something in this post you can use. Like with everything on this blog (and every other source of financial information out there), take what you find useful and leave the rest.

Today, I’m going to discuss a few things to consider when you get beyond Enough. This is relatively new territory for me, so I wouldn’t be surprised if my views on the subject change over time, but I think I’ve learned a few items worth sharing.

 

6 Tips For Those Who Have Enough

 

I’ve written about life Beyond Enough before, but never on this site. Today’s the day!

 

have-enough

 

# 1 Dealing with Guilt

 

Katie and I worked hard to become educated, make good financial decisions, grow a business, and help as many people as we could. But we didn’t work as hard as what we’ve been blessed with. By no objective measure can we claim to deserve this level of financial success.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss my grandfather’s life with my mother. She was one of twelve children raised on a 200-acre farm in Eastern Utah that was purchased about the time of her birth. (Prior to that point, this grandfather, like my other grandfather, was a miner.)

There was a one bedroom house on the farm. The girls got the bedroom (3-4 in the bed), my grandparents slept in the front room (there were only two rooms total in the house), and the boys slept in the barn. They primarily ate bread along with potatoes, carrots, and onions raised in the large garden.

The farm grew wheat, barley, and hay and there were 15-20 cows to milk each day and about 200 sheep. Nearly the entire production of the farm was consumed by the family. The only “cash crops” were the cream from the milk and the wool from the sheep.

In addition, starting when my mother was young, my grandfather took a job pumping gas at the service station all night. He would return from work, sleep for a few hours, farm for a few hours during the heat of the day, sleep a few more hours, and go back to work. Needless to say, the children had to take care of most of the farm chores. My grandfather busted his butt for his entire life just to keep food on the table.

By contrast, I’m 45, never have to work again, and can afford to buy just about anything my heart desires. Given technological change, my privilege, wealth, opportunity, and health are beyond that of the vast majority of kings that have ever lived on this planet.

Do I feel a little guilty about that? You betcha. This is not uncommon for the wealthy and something you have likely had to deal with in the past or will have to in the future.

Here’s my take: There is nothing wrong with having wealth and privilege, so long as you use it to better the lives of those around you. As Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” In fact, I have no doubt that my grandfather INTENDED for me (and my 80+ cousins) to enjoy a more privileged life than he led. That was why he went to war in the 1940s and why he worked so hard after he came home.

 

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# 2 Spend a Little

 

From time to time, Katie and I have very deliberately increased our lifestyle. We have intentionally spent more money on clothing, food, shelter, vacations, and even “stuff.” The fun thing about having “Enough” is that anything above and beyond that amount can be safely squandered in any way you choose without it affecting the fact that you have enough.

Yes, boosting your spending on an ongoing basis has the nasty side effect of increasing how much “Enough” is, but within reason, that’s okay. And one time expenditures are exactly that. Good luck trying to tell “ongoing expenses” apart from “one time expenditures,” by the way. That’s a dilemma I never considered before but frequently think about now.

Bear in mind what the literature on happiness says — the best way to “buy” happiness is to have shared experiences with people you care about. Limit how much “stuff” you buy, make sure that which you do is of high quality, and remember that everything you own owns a little piece of you.

Also, as you recklessly consume loosen the purse strings, be sure you remember what you are consuming. While you have enough money to buy/do what you want, remember that every product or service you consume has effects on the rest of the planet and every species on it.

In many ways, the resources of the planet are more limited than yours! “Fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” is more than a method to build wealth, it’s a prescription for improving sustainability.

 

# 3 Continue to Invest

 

Despite having “Enough” we’re still saving and investing. There are really four categories of what we’re doing with our money. Currently, the smallest category of what we do with our money is to spend it.

The next smallest category is to give money away. We’re proud to give away more than we spend each year. This includes money given to charities, money given to family (primarily 529s for nieces/nephews), and The White Coat Investor Scholarship.

The third category? Taxes. While the 2018 tax code changes helped a little, over 30% of our income still goes to support our national, state, and local governments and is spent as directed by our elected officials.

But the largest category? It’s still our savings. Why are we still saving so much? I guess part of it is habit. But there’s more to it. I think some of it is just boosting things up a bit.

Having a little more than enough provides us a little extra financial security. Some of it is “rounding out” our investments. For example, we’ve met the original goals we had for money to give to our children for college and their 20s. But we bumped those goals up a bit because we could, so we’re still putting some money there. Some of that savings also provide us a tax break and a little extra asset protection, and that’s nice too.

 

how much money is enough

 

If our spending continues to rise, as it has throughout our adult lives, we may also need a little more than what we now think is enough. So saving more allows us to increase spending. I’ve been impressed by our ability to spend more and more over the years without feeling like we’re wasting it, so additional savings adds a bit of a fudge factor in there.

For sure a big chunk of this additional savings is going to end up being given away eventually, whether to heirs or charity. But would those heirs and charities be better off being given this money now or being given more money after we’ve invested it for a few more decades?

I don’t claim to be Warren Buffett, but I’ve discovered that I’m a whole lot better at investing money than the vast majority of those on the planet, and that certainly includes my kids!

But we still expect to give away more and more each year if our income stays anywhere near where it is now. Maybe at some point, it will eclipse our savings and our tax bill.

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# 4 Give Money Away

 

Beyond Enough, your focus should turn more and more to the needs of others. This includes your financial focus. Another cruise probably isn’t going to make you any happier.

But the $10K you could spend on it can buy an awful lot of Meals on Wheels. It could pay the nurse practitioner’s salary in the homeless clinic for a month.

At 20 patients a day, that could be 400 medical encounters you paid for. You could vaccinate or feed hundreds in the developing world.

Prefer to teach a man to fish rather than give him a fish? You could pay for a year’s worth of college tuition with that $10K, and that’s in the crazy-expensive US education system.

I’ve written about charity many times before, but beyond enough, more and more of your income should be going toward it. Given the thousands of charities in this world, there must be at least one whose mission you agree with.

You can’t take it with you. Hearses don’t have trailer hitches. You’re giving it away eventually, you might as well give it while you can enjoy seeing the benefits of the gift.

 

# 5 Use Your Time Wisely

 

You now have minimal limitations on your financial resources. But you only have a limited amount of time, and perhaps a lot less than you think. This has all kinds of implications on your day to day decisions.

When possible, exchange time for money. Maybe that means hiring a lawn care service or a housekeeper. Maybe it means Ubering instead of taking the subway. Maybe you hire an investment manager, even after a lifetime of do-it-yourself investing.

Some expenditures may even extend your life – preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic health care, medications, good food, a gym membership, a safer car, a less polluted city.

Just as you should use your money to better humanity and the planet, so you should use your time. We’re not just talking about volunteer work here. When you are no longer working for money, I would recommend you make sure your work meets these three criteria, no matter what it pays:

 

  1. Give you something to do. Boredom and lack of structure have killed more retirees than cancer. Want to be happy? Retire TO something, not FROM something.
  2. Allow you to make a difference in the world. Define this however you like, but purposeful work is critical when its main purpose is no longer to trade your time for money.
  3. Provide a challenge. Routine, easy, mindless work might seem attractive as a teenager, but most of those reading these words have since learned that a job without challenge rapidly loses its joy. That challenge might be making more money or creating jobs for other people, which is fine. But make sure there is something there that will keep you learning and growing.

 

It is said that if you want to motivate white-collar employees, you need to make sure they can have mastery, autonomy, and purpose. That goes for you too.

 

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# 6 Take Care of Your Health

 

Since you are no longer working for money, there is no reason to be a slave to your job. Turn down the stuff you don’t want to do. If the bad stuff outweighs the good and it can’t be adjusted, quit.

No reason to be working 80 hours a week. You now have time to find the perfect balance of productivity, recreation, and rest. Consider the recommendation of Brigham Young for the balanced day: 8 hours work, 8 hours play, 8 hours sleep.

“Life is best enjoyed when time periods are evenly divided between labour, sleep and recreation. All men, women, and children should labour; all must sleep; and if mental and physical balance is to be maintained, all people should spend one-third of their time in recreation which is rebuilding, voluntary activity—never idleness. Eight hours work, eight hours sleep, and eight hours recreation.”

That would seem to indicate no more than a 56 hour work week, but most will find that they have enough non-paid productive work to do that they don’t need to spend more than 20-30 hours a week to get what they’re looking for out of a job they don’t need the money from.

Exercise more. Who says you can’t be in the best shape of your life in your 40s or 50s?

Eat better. Lose weight. Sleep more. Destress. See a therapist. Travel. Increase your spirituality. Rekindle relationships with family and friends. Build new ones. Find that balance that eluded you when you had to work for money.

One wonderful thing that financial independence did for me was to give me dramatically fewer URIs (colds). Not sure how much is due to working less (and less exposure to sick people) vs a stronger immune system from not staying up all night and constantly rotating shifts (what I attribute most of it to).

 

 

Wrapping it Up

 

I hope these tips are helpful. I wrote them as much for me as for you. As I noted above, this is new territory for us, and we’re figuring it out as we go along. My hope is for each of you to have the opportunity to wrestle with these issues and find your own path.

 

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What do you think? What will you do when you have Enough? How much is Enough for you? If you’ve been beyond Enough for a long time, what tips do you have for those of us who have found ourselves in this position more recently? 

16 thoughts on “6 Tips For Those Who Have Enough”

  1. Jim, I thoroughly enjoyed this post :). I felt a strong connect with what you shared about your grandfather. I only got to know my maternal grandfather up until the age of 13 and lately I’ve reflected a lot about the live he lived (being married to 2 wifes and having 24 children, whilst grinding all the time in a remote village in South Eastern Nigeria to keep the family going).

    A lot of this thinking has arisen on the back of reaching a point of enough and in particular I’ve considered how the possibility of reaching enough is accelerated depending on what part of the world one is in. Had i not immigrated to London (UK), there is a very tiny chance that we’d be where we are today.

    There is so much to this topic of what to do beyond enough and I’m glad to see you talking about it. For me, running our platform is now a big part of it and I now see getting to the point of “enough” as an opportunity to become a true catalyst to help others. This is now a HUGE part of where my heart is and it is making me a better person as a result.

    It all remains a fun journey of learning and reflecting. Thanks again for sharing.

    Reply
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  3. I really enjoyed reading this. As I’ve shared many times, I am far away from having enough. My net worth is still decidedly in the red having just graduated from training. However I still struggle with guilt over my situation. My wife and I worked incredibly hard to put ourselves in a position where we could become financially successful. And even though we are net worth negative, we are still able to live very comfortably while we aggressively work to reach financial freedom. Beyond that, we are already thinking about what we will encounter once we have “enough.” Each of these points has come up in our heads but to see them so well fleshed out is incredibly helpful.

    The Prudent Plastic Surgeon

    Reply
  4. Enjoyed reading your article. I am retired and have turned myself into a non professional athlete. My biggest fear is an injury. A friend of mine retired at a very early age (he was an original Intel employee). His biggest faves are golf and a 60 + foot sailboat that is currently parked in the Caribbean. When he talks about living and sailing on his boat his eyes light up, he says it places him and his family in a different world. We both have our homes in California. My mom and my brother both like giving money to charities, my mom likes the social perks that go with it, not sure about my brother’s motivations. I give some money away, but reluctantly. Despite giving thousands over the years it has not once made me happier. OTOH giving sports equipment as gifts to relatives does make me happier. Took me a long time to figure that out. Stay safe!

    Reply
  5. I don’t understand the feeling of guilt with respect to being born into a more privileged life or guilt about accumulating wealth through hard work. We were born into the life we were born into because it was meant to happen that way. It was meant to happen that way because it did happen that way. Now if you intentionally harm someone, etc sure feel guilty about that until the cows come home.

    Instead of indulging in the feeling of guilt, which necessarily means we are in the past, continue to do the good work you’re doing, help the people you can help, and enjoy the moment. The moment we’re in is all that’s guaranteed.

    Reply
  6. “make sure that which you do is of high quality, and remember that everything you own owns a little piece of you”

    I find this to be so true and very well put.

    Thanks,
    Ryan

    Reply
  7. Well put. I’ve lived through this phase of what to do after enough. The end of my second book covers this as well. For me the biggest worry was how will I feel about not being a physician anymore. All the people who could have benefited from my surgical skills are missing out. But then I realized that I would be quitting that work at some point anyway and there are other ways to help people. As long as I feel I have a purpose, I feel good about what I’m doing. I recently dusted off the piano and started preparing to do a piano bar show again. I haven’t done that in decades. I’m looking forward to bringing music back into my daily routine and sharing it with others. I guess being stuck at home brought that on. But I am having fun playing again and even going shopping for a grand piano to put in our upcoming new home. Always wanted one of those. Now that I’m sure I have enough, I wasn’t quite sure at first, I am loosening up the purse strings some more.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Financial Success MD

    Reply
  8. I also appreciated the insightful post and the responses as well. Although my parents had very modest means and Dad’s scrap metal business was always in the red (he worked long hours-and also pastored a small church) , us eight kids grew up knowing they loved each other. We were also the recipients of kindness from others in the community and even were on food stamps for a while when Dad got injured while working and couldn’t work for nearly a year. As we near financial independence, one of my most favorite things is giving money away to honor God , my parents, and those who demonstrated kindness to us. Having enough means we can continue to give, and eventually have complete control of our time.

    Reply
  9. Why me? I have achieved a level of success that I could not have dreamed of. I didn’t plan this, but somehow it happened. Hard work, risk taking, jumping on opportunities when they arose, and careful financial management all led to where I am today with a generous 8 figure net worth.

    I do many of the things you mentioned. We spend more and enjoy travel, and will resume when the covid risk abates. I do feel somewhat guilty about having so much more than others, but I pay generous bonuses to all of my employees, and I tip very generously at well over 20% rounded up wherever I go. We continue to invest, we donate increasing amounts each year to charity, and we focus a great deal on healthy eating and plenty of good exercise.

    Overall, life is great. I wonder how I got so lucky.

    Reply
  10. Thoroughly enjoyed this article, especially the experience of your grandfather and Ken’s grandfather from Nigeria.

    The comment section could easily turn to one of gratitude. Our greatest currency is life itself, and to be surrounded by what we’re now have is unimaginable. Hard not to feel guilty, but just have to be filled with gratitude and thankfulness.

    Reply
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  12. “Given technological change, my privilege, wealth, opportunity, and health are beyond that of the vast majority of kings that have ever lived on this planet.” Isn’t that the truth? Recognizing that, being grateful for our blessings, and making the most of our opportunity is critical.

    I enjoyed your thoughtful article.

    Reply
  13. My dad had a tenth grade education and was a laborer in a factor for all of his life. Mom was a highschool graduate and a homemaker all of her life.

    I was short, fat, and unpopular.

    I worked hard, long hours at various jobs that no one else wanted at night and 60 hour work weeks during the summer “vacation” so I could afford college while I lived at home.

    I took out loans for dental school and then for an office and equipment. The educational loans follow me to my grave and the professional business loans were secured by the land, building, chattels, and the 20% down payment the bank required.

    15 years out of highschool to see any real profit!

    The next 20 years were amazingly profitable and I was able to retire at age 58.

    I don’t feel one bit of guilt about what I’ve done or the fact I don’t HAVE to do ANYTHING all day long except enjoy life to the best of my ability.

    As Dave Ramsey says: Live like no one else lives so you can eventually live like no one else lives.

    Reply

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